MASON CITY — A development firm has announced its plans to construct a 349-mile underground power line to move renewable energy generated in rural Iowa to Chicago and eastern cities.
Direct Connect Development Co. on Monday announced the SOO Green Renewable Rail project, which would build a high-voltage direct current line along existing railroads from Mason City to Plano, Ill.
The proposed route cuts across Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Chickasaw, Winneshiek, Allamakee and Clayton counties in Iowa and runs through Charles City, New Hampton and Calmar.
“The successful deployment of this HVDC technology along railroads will create a market segment that doesn’t exist today, and DC DevCo believes that the SOO Green project will set the standard regarding how transmission lines are developed and constructed in the U.S.,” company CEO Trey Ward, said in a news release.
SOO Green is touted as the first project to use underground construction along rail lines. Most of the route is along a Canadian Pacific-owned railroad.
Company officials said the underground construction technique for the 2,100-megawatt line will “limit impacts to the environment by boring under sensitive habitat, limiting the impact on birds and other endangered species.”
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“Building SOO Green underground and utilizing an existing railroad right of way will also limit impacts to neighboring landowners,” the company added.
The project connects the MISO power grid in the upper Midwest with the PJM region in Illinois and states farther west. The interconnection would allow electricity generated by Iowa’s large number of wind turbines to be transmitted to eastern communities with high demand for the power.
Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Jingoli Power and Siemens Financial Services were announced as the main investors of the project.
“The SOO Green project will provide increased reliability and stability for the PJM and MISO grids, benefiting utility and corporate customers from Chicago to the East Coast,” Jingoli CEO Karl Miller said in a news release.
Construction of the project will create more than 600 temporary jobs in Iowa and Illinois, and indirectly create more than 200 permanent jobs to maintain and operate the wind farms and the transmission line post-construction, the company said.
The estimated $2.5 billion to $3 billion project needs a number of approvals and permits from federal, state and local regulators, including the Iowa Utilities Board. Company officials hope it could be operational by 2024.